Sustainable management of energy to improve quality of life in developing countries

Grantham Scholar Reena Sayani’s project explores the use of mini-grids to provide sustainable electricity to some of the 1 billion people currently without access to energy.

Background to the project

Nearly 1 billion people lack access to adequate and affordable energy, particularly in developing countries. As such, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) by 2030 is a goal that could improve the lives of many people. However, electrifying such a large population sustainably is a challenge. Nearly 60% of emission comes from energy. So the world faces a dual imperative: to electrify everybody whilst decreasing emissions.

Off-grid renewable energy services, especially mini-grids, have the potential to improve the quality of life and increase economic opportunities. This is especially true for rural communities, where access to electricity is most concentrated. There are many factors involved in making mini-grids achieve long-term sustainability. These included: cost-effective planning, regulatory frameworks for tariff plans, design tailored to the community needs, the optimum configuration of the generation system, timely operations and maintenance.

The project

In this project we will first model mini-grid planning, operations, and maintenance from the demand-side approach. We will focus on a bottom-up method to estimate the energy demand from the community, and how this demand evolves over time.

Further, we will optimize renewable energy generation and storage configurations – primarily PV and battery – to aid the future-proof design of a mini-grid.


Reena has conducted a pilot study with Gram Oorja in May-June 2019. This fieldwork was in 6 villages around Tansa Forest in Maharashtra India. Working with Gram Oorja, Reena collected data on energy demand and appliance ownership.

Research groups

Reena is part of the Multiscale Simulation Group. This group is a mix of researchers who work in modelling and simulation at The University of Sheffield. You can find out more about the group here.


Grantham Scholar teams up with Grantham Institute on mini-grids. Our Reena Sayani and Paloma Ortega, from our sister centre the Grantham Institute, collaborate and publish on sizing solar mini-grids.

TerraTech, a team Reena formed with fellow Scholar Nancy Muringai, won best consideration of financial planning strategy at the Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES). Find out more: Grantham Scholars win YES finance prize.

Reena Sayani with a computer near solar panels In 2021, Reena and 6 other Grantham Scholars went to COP26 as official observers for the University of Sheffield. Before COP we spoke to each of them about their hopes and fears for this pivotal event.

We interviewed Reena to find out about the need for energy for all. In the interview Reena explains the need for sustainable energy, the challenges it poses and how it could be a big win for those living in poverty. We also learn about mini-grids and the role AI and social sciences have in the energy challenge. Read: How to make sustainable energy for all.

Find Reena Sayani on social media

You can find Reena on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.


Sizing solar-based mini-grids for growing electricity demand: Insights from rural India. Reena Sayani et al 2023 J. Phys. Energy 5 014004
DOI 10.1088/2515-7655/ac9dc0



Dr. Milijana Odavic

Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering